Conflict & Justice

Treasure hunters pull record silver find from wreck of WWII era British ship


A 400-year-old 150-pound metal chest is displayed in one of the alcoves of the Pirate Soul Museum 10 January 2005 in Key West, Florida.


Roberto Schmidt

There's treasure everywhere - and especially at the bottom of the sea. Discovery News reported today that modern day treasure hunters have found a whopping 48 tons of silver in the wreck of the S.S. Gairsoppa, a British ship that met a watery end after being torpedoed by a German U boat in 1941.

The find will be ranked among the deepest - and most lucrative - precious metal recoveries ever carried out, Discovery said. 

The riches within S.S. Gairsoppa were coveted by shipwreck experts Odyssey Marine Exploration for a while, according to the company's own website.

The UK Department of Transportation in 2010 decided to award Odyssey, via a bidding process, an exclusive contract to recover the massive quantity of silver known to be trapped inside the sunken cargo ship.

Read more: Updates on the S.S. Gairsoppa project

The treasure hunters have brought up 1,203 silver bars so far, representing a mere 20% of the total silver cargo on board, and 43% of the insured silver bars, says Odyssey. 

Odyssey has stated in a July 18th press release that will be allowed to retain 80% of the haul. Odyssey has made a name for themselves as one of the most famous names in deep water salvage, and the S.S. Gairsoppa project will be featured in an upcoming Discovery channel special, says Discovery News.

The Gairsoppa lies three miles beneath the waters of the North Atlantic, says Odyssey, and is roughly 300 nautical miles from Ireland. 

The recovery operation will continue into the summer, Odyssey says, and may also include the wreck of the S.S Mantola, a British steamer sunk en route to Calcutta in 1917 - also by a German torpedo. This wreck, says Odyssey, is believed to contain 600,000 oz of insured silver.